Effects of Graphical In-Flight Weather Information and Graphical Depictions of Airspace Restrictions on Pilots’ Decisions to Continue VFR Flight into IMC
Nakushian, Andrew James
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Continued Visual Flight Rules (VFR) flight into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) is a leading cause of fatal general aviation accidents. According to the 2020 Joseph T. Nall Report, this type of accident has a 90% lethality rate. As a result of this high lethality rate, VFR into IMC is an aviation safety issue widely discussed among the aviation community in popular media and academic literature. Additionally, over the past decade, Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs) have become mainstream in general aviation, replacing paper charts and providing inflight weather in both graphical and textual form. EFBs also commonly provide graphical depictions of airspace restrictions along with a moving map. Research has shown that pilots fly closer to inclement weather and airspace when provided with a moving map like on a GPS unit. A review of the literature regarding aeronautical decision making and VFR into IMC found that no studies have examined the effect of graphical depictions of inflight weather and airspace restrictions on pilots’ decisions when confronted with a VFR into IMC situation. The current study was a mixed-methods experimental study that sought to address that gap in the literature. Ninety-eight participants completed the experimental task, which consisted of watching an interactive video, selecting a decision response, and completing a post-scenario questionnaire. The results of the study indicated that there was no statistically significant impact of either intervention on time spent in IMC or decision of whether to continue or not. However, there was a statistically significant interaction between the two interventions for decision confidence and decision difficulty. Additionally, a thematic analysis indicated that most of the participants who entered IMC either assessed the weather as still suitable for VFR flight or trusted the accuracy of the weather report.